Canterbury mothers benefit from free breastfeeding clinic
The number of new mothers attending a free, drop-in breastfeeding clinic at St George’s Hospital has increased 231 percent since the service was established in 2009.
The self-referral clinic, which provides free access to a professional lactation consultant, was the first of its kind in Canterbury. It has provided support for more than 1500 women who have experienced difficulties with breastfeeding. In March 2009 the clinic was seeing 13 mothers – this number has increased to 43 in August 2013.
Charge Midwife at St George’s, Anna van Uden, says a profound effect of the drop-in clinic is the support and encouragement mothers offer one another. “One of the most important challenges for new mothers is to feed and nourish their newborn infants, a process that commences within minutes of birth,” says Anna. “While breastfeeding seems the most natural choice for mothers, it can become a very stressful experience.”
The clinic is one of several breastfeeding programmes that have underpinned St George’s Hospital’s third successful Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) accreditation. BFHI is a global campaign of the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund, with the aim of increasing breastfeeding initiation and duration rates.
St Albans mother Jane Murray has attended on five separate occasions due to problems with her daughter Erika latching. “You spend so much time focusing on your pregnancy and the actual birth that when it is time to breastfeed you think it will be pretty easy, and should come naturally. But then it is 3am and you are in tears because your baby is not latching and all you want is sleep. “It is really comforting to know that the next morning you can easily call in to the drop-in centre and get advice.” Jane says if the clinic was not available she would probably pay for a private lactation consultant – which comes at a high cost.
New Brighton mother Bernadette Longson has attended the clinic twice with her newborn son Matteo. “I left feeling so much better, and I know that I can go back anytime in the future if I have problems. It is often when you get home with your new baby that you need the support, and it’s nice to know that it is available.”
Anna Hancox drives in from Kaiapoi to attend the clinic with her newborn twins Nicola and Mikayla. She also used the service with her first child. “You can just drop in at your own convenience, and it is free. I sat down with the lactation consultant and she watched a feed and advised me on what I was doing wrong. It was reassuring to know that I was doing everything that I could, and I left a lot more confident.”
Since St George’s Hospital established its free clinic, several other breastfeeding support services have set up throughout Canterbury. The St George’s clinic runs four mornings a week and is open to any mother – regardless of whether they receive maternity care at the Hospital.
Carol Bartle, co-ordinator for the Canterbury Breastfeeding Advocacy Service, says if such services were not available in the community a lot of mothers would simply stop breastfeeding.“They wouldn’t have the support that they need,” says Carol, who is renowned internationally as a maternal, infant and young child health promoter. Carol is involved with the Health Advisory Council of the La Leche League International Advisory Board, the International Lactation Consultants Association Ethics and International Code Committee. “I think it is important for new mums to know that they can access these services. It is about developing diverse, flexible networks so that breastfeeding women in Canterbury will have someone to turn to if they are having difficulty.”
Says Anna van Uden: “It’s often when Mum and baby go home that the issues develop, and it’s really important that there are such support networks in the community. “We also collaborate with the Lead Maternity Carer (LMC), who looks after the mother and baby for six weeks post-partum. The LMC may be attending a birth or visiting at a rural location and one of their mother’s may need assistance. If it can be provided at the clinic we liaise with them and do everything we can to assist – regardless of whether they have birthed at St George’s or not.”